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The Communal Award And Poona Pact

poona pact and communal award

The Communal Award And Poona Pact

The Communal Award was to grant separate electorates in British India for the Forward Caste, Lower Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Untouchables (now known as the Dalits). It is also known as ‘McDonald Award’. Almost everywhere in India mass meeting took place, political leaders different persuasions, like Madam Mohan Malviya, B.R Ambedkar and M.C Raja became active. In the end the succeeded in hammering out an agreement, known as the ‘Poona Pact

The principle of weightage was also applied. Sir Samuel Hoare asked for clarification of the ninth and last paragraph that applied directly to the Depressed Classes. The Award favoured the minorities over the Hindus causing consternation and eliciting anger from Gandhi. From the fastness of Yeravda Jail he made contact with the Cabinet in London declaring on 4 January 1933 an open fast until death.

The reason behind introduction of this 'Award' was that Ramsay MacDonald considered himself as 'a friend of the Indians' and thus wanted to resolve the issues in India. The 'Communal Award' was announced after the failure of the Second of the Round Table Conferences (India). The 'award' attracted severe criticism from Mahatma Gandhi

As a result of the Second Round Table Conference, in September 1931, the then Prime Minister of Britain Ramsay MacDonald gave his 'award', known as the Communal Award. It provided separate representation for the Forward Caste, Scheduled Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Scheduled Castes. The Scheduled Castes were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from special constituencies in which scheduled castes could vote.

The Award was controversial as it was believed by some to have been brought in by the British to create social divide among the Hindus. Gandhi feared that it would disintegrate Hindu society. However, the Communal Award was supported by many among the minority communities, most notably the leader of the Scheduled Castes, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. According to Ambedkar, Gandhi was ready to award separate electorates to Muslims and Sikhs. But Gandhi was reluctant to give separate electorates to scheduled castes. He was afraid of division inside Congress and Hindu society due to separate scheduled caste representations. But Ambedkar insisted for separate electorate for scheduled caste.

Akali Dal, the representative body of the Sikhs, was also highly critical of the Award since only 19% was reserved to the Sikhs in Punjab, as opposed to the 51% reservation for the Muslims and 30% for the Hindus. Gandhi concurred with the revival of Swaraj which became policy in May 1934 on ratification by the All-India Congress Committee. The Government reluctantly agreed to lift the ban on Congress. In return they received anxious support from the Muslim League still smarting from Gandhi's majoritarianism. After lengthy negotiations, Gandhi reached an agreement with Ambedkar to have a single Hindu electorate, with scheduled castes having seats reserved within it. The Poona Pact rejected any further advancement for the Depressed, yet satisfied electorates for other religions like Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans that remained separate.

During the parliamentary debates on the Government of India bill the Untouchables gained a notable champion in a Conservative MP, A.V.Goodman. He stressed their poverty should be ameliorated by greater representation in the provincial assemblies. But while Muslim League remained ambivalent to the Communal Award its ratification by the Central Assembly remained a priority.

Response of Indian National Congress

Congress was against the system of separate electorates but it was not in favour of changing the Communal Award without taking the minorities in confidence. So, the leaders of Congress were against the Communal Award and strongly disagree with it but the Congress decided neither to accept the Communal Award not to reject it. The Nationalist leaders opposed the British move to separate the depressed classes from the rest of the population of Hindus by providing them separate electorates.

Response of Mahatma Gandhi

For Mahatma Gandhi, the Communal Award was an attack on the unity of India and was against the Indian nationalism. He believed that separate electorates were harmful to both Hinduism and for the depressed classes as it provided no answer to the social problems faced by the members of depressed classes. Gandhi knew that once the depressed classes were treated as separate political identity, the issue of abolition of untouchability would get undermined and the separate electorates would keep the depressed classes to remain untouchables in perpetuity. Gandhi said that what was required was not the protection of so-called political interests of untouchables but the root and branch eradication of untouchability from India.

Poona Pact(24 September 1932 )

In this pact, there were agreement between Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi at Yerwada Central Jail in Pune. And the pact get accent by the Government as an amendment to the Communal Award.

Provisions of the Poona Pact:

• The Pact abandoned separate electorates for the depressed classes. But the seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and 18 per cent of the total in the central legislature.

• Election to seats shall be by joint electorates subject, however, to the following procedure: All members of the Depressed Classes registered in the general electoral roll of a constituency will form an electoral college which will elect a panel of four candidates belonging to the Depressed Classes for each of such reserved seats by the method of the single vote and four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary elections shall be the candidates for election by the general electorate.

• The system of primary election to a panel of candidates for election as before mentioned shall come to an end after the first ten years, unless terminated sooner by mutual agreement.

• The system of representation of Depressed Classes by reserved seats shall continue until determined otherwise by mutual agreement between the communities concerned.

• The Franchise of the Depressed Classes shall be as indicated, in the Lothian Committee (Indian Franchise Committee) Report.

• There shall be no disabilities attached to any one on the ground of his being a member of the Depressed Classes in regard to any election to local bodies or appointment to the public services. Every endeavour shall be made to secure a fair representation of the Depressed Classes in these respects.

• In every province out of the educational grant an adequate sum shall be ear-marked for providing educational facilities to the members of Depressed Classes.

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